A Long Way Down

Title: A Long Way Down
Author: Nick Hornby
Pub Date: 2005
Pages: 333
Genre: Fiction
Challenges: 100+
Rating: 4.5/5


Four people meet on top of a building New Year’s Eve night planning to plummet to their death.

The characters in six words:
  • JJ: Depressed musician who’ll never be famous
  • Martin: Newscaster likes young girls; marriage over.
  • Maureen: Dowdy mom cares for vegetable son.
  • Jess: Borderline Personality who’s sister goes missing.
The NYT’s says: “At its heart, [it] isn’t really about suicide itself, anyway…it’s more about what happens when you don’t kill yourself…”

I couldn’t have said it better.

My thoughts:

This is the second Nick Horby book I’ve read. The first one was How to be Good, and truthfully, I don’t remember being all that impressed with it. (At least not impressed enough to read anything more from him at the time). I’m really glad that I gave this one a chance.

Hornby writes his novel from the point over view of each character, alternating personalities every couple of pages. Generally I find this style to be annoying and confusing. Jodi Picoult does this frequently and often I’m jarred out of the story. Hornby has a gift, because not only does the novel flow, I moved from character voice to character voice flawlessly in my head. I believe ultimately it’s because each character has such a distinctive voice. Take Jess for example. Whether Hornby planned it this way or not, I couldn’t believe how case study “borderline” she was. I thought back to my psych classes and words of wisdom from professors when seeing clients with BPD and want to send them each this book to use Jess to illustrate their lectures when studying personality disorders.

There are many aspects that I liked about A Long Way Down. There was nothing grandiose about the plot or character developments which only added to its realism. The four find each other and they form a pact rather unwillingly. But they don’t really like each other much. They don’t have this near-death moment and become fast friends. In fact, Martin often struggles because the three other pact members are *so* not his type; he wouldn’t normally be caught dead with the lot of them. Their friendship isn’t about warm fuzzies. Many of the statements that they share to one and another are rude, cruel, and fierce. But it works.

Also, the ending isn’t all neatly tied up with a pretty bow. The foursome doesn’t all of a sudden find this new appreciation for life, this new drive to change the world. They just find hope. A glimmer of hope, even: “hard is trying to rebuild yourself, piece by piece, with no instruction book, and no clue as to where all the important bits are supposed to go.” (322).

Important Side Note: Johnny Depp bought the rights to the movie and he hired the same writer who wrote the adaptation for High Fidelity to handle this screenplay. (I stress this as an important side note because, really, no one else is more dreamy than Johnny Depp! Just a little eye candy for the blog. LOL).


  1. I liked the movie versions of High Fidelity and About a Boy more than I liked the books, and I read How to Be Good, but I don't really remember it. Alas. I'd still give Nick Hornby another try in the future, though.

  2. I really need to read some of Nick Hornby's books. Thanks for the Johnny Depp picture - made my day.

  3. I adore Nick Hornby. I haven't read this yet, but it sounds like something I'll love.

  4. Great review! Love your list of characters in 6 words. I've been meaning to read this book.

  5. Charley - You know i don't really remember much about How to be Be Good either. The only reason why I read this one is because *so* many book bloggers love Hornby. I figured I was missing something. Haven't read AaB or HF yet, but AaB is one of my favorite movies.

    Scrap girl - I think the world would be a better place with more JD pictures. :P

    Nymeth - Your adoration of Hornby was part of the reason why I gave him a second shot. You make pretty good judgement calls. :)

    Joanne - Thanks. I have my students write 6 word reviews of what they read to help summarize. I thought I would give it a shot. :)

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